Hundreds of schools over capacity or at risk of overcrowding
Hundreds of schools are over capacity or at risk of becoming overcrowded as thousands of extra children turn up to school each year, government documents show.
The Ministry of Education report reveals 214 schools around the country were considered over capacity, while 488 were at risk of becoming overcrowded.
Capacity was defined as 100 per cent use of a school's buildings. Any school operating above 85 per cent capacity was at risk of becoming overcrowded.
Schools identified as most under pressure have been in discussions with the ministry about introducing zoning or adding classrooms to combat the problem.
Predictions showed more than 10,000 new students would enroll in school between 2016 and 2017 – from almost 764,000 to nearly 774,000.
Those same national roll projections increase by at least 3000 students each year until 2030.
Six regions – Auckland, Western Bay of Plenty, Waikato, Wellington, Canterbury and Otago-Southland – have been identified as experiencing the most growth in primary and secondary school rolls in 2016-17. Data was not available for some regions.
This was placing "some pressure" on schools in those areas, former Education Minister Hekia Parata said in Parliament in February.
The Education Network Annual Assessment report was produced using 2015 and 2016 data to identify and address overcrowded schools and those at risk of becoming jammed. It outlines potential remedies, including new property, enrolment schemes or simply monitoring roll numbers.
Data for the six highest-growth regions, obtained by the Labour Party under the Official Information Act, showed 214 schools were overcrowded and 488 were at risk of becoming so.
Ministry deputy secretary of sector enablement support Katrina Casey said the at-risk category was simply a threshold to more closely monitor and plan accordingly.
Capacity data was changeable and did not always reflect new teaching spaces a school had received since, she said. It also did not include board of trustees-funded buildings.
Casey said following strict building-code regulations, being at or over capacity did not indicate there was "anything unsafe about the school". More than $470m had been allocated to fund more capacity for schools around the country in the last two years.
Labour education spokesman Chris Hipkins said the Government had not adequately planned for population growth.
"Schools are ending up with kids in libraries, gymnasiums and school halls because they haven't got enough classroom space."
He hoped the Budget would include "significant" investment in school infrastructure.
CANTERBURY EXPERIENCING 'SIGNIFICANT GROWTH'
The report said the Canterbury region "has and is experiencing significant growth" in areas likes Selwyn and north and southwest Christchurch.
Primary schools had been "under pressure for some years" and this was starting to show as students reached secondary-school age.
There was also district-wide growth across Ashburton, it said.
Forty-seven Canterbury schools (18 per cent), were operating above capacity, and 150 (57 per cent), were considered at risk of overcrowding.
More than 80 per cent of at-risk schools were primary and intermediate.
"Almost half of all primary schools in Canterbury now operate enrolment schemes," the document said.
However, some schools showing overcapacity might already have buildings planned and amended enrolment zones to manage growth.
The ministry was in discussions with 29 Canterbury schools about implementing enrolment schemes or zoning.
Hornby High principal Robin Sutton said the school was waiting for its earthquake rebuild, which would address capacity issues.
It was not a "crisis", "but as with most schools it's tight".
"We're just managing to squeeze in, basically. Our roll grew a little more than anybody expected this year."
The roll was currently just under 680 and the rebuilt school would accommodate 800.
Cashmere High principal Mark Wilson said more than 92 per cent of locally-zoned students attended the school, which was at 103 per cent capacity.
"We see it as a good problem to have because we are the school of choice for our local kids."
The problem, he said, was that did not leave much room to accommodate out-of-zone students.
Wilson said his school had several board-owned buildings paid for by local fundraising and foreign fee-paying students. These were not included in this data.
"We don't have a problem at the moment … but we are literally at capacity."
Avonhead School was at 122 per cent capacity despite having an enrolment scheme.
Principal Charles Levings said the school had just undergone significant refurbishments and was no longer overcrowded.
"We have 600 kids but we have enough classrooms for that," he said.
Using population predictions, the report said the school-aged child population would increase 9 per cent in Canterbury between 2013 and 2043 – from 91,970 to 100,575. This was largely due to post-earthquake population resettlement and development.
The school-rebuild programme was aligning capacity with demand, it said.
Growth was also predicted in central Christchurch due to housing intensification, gentrification and urban revitalisation.
Hipkins said: "Certainly in Christchurch there would be no question that they haven't managed to get the population trends right."
He believed the ministry should never have "barged ahead" with the Christchurch schools rebuild programme before waiting for the population changes to become evident.
Canterbury Principals' Association chairman Phil Holstein believed capacity issues had been identified and accommodated for in the schooling rebuild, but he was mindful of monitoring future growth in primary schooling to show predicted secondary growth.
The document showed many rural schools were contracting and closing, like Morven School in Waimate, which closed last year.